Written by Dave Lenehan
Over the holidays, we got together with our former church small group. We hadn’t been together for months and, as you might guess, a lot had happened in our combined lives over time. We gathered at one of our host homes to catch up on life and pray together. As each couple seated around the table shared one or two stories of a wayward adult child or other relative, it would have been easy to get weighed down with the heaviness of the conversation.
You know those stories. You’ve heard ones of someone close to you who has totally walked away from or outright rejected God. Their lives are a mess. They are definitely not doing better in their Jesus-less pursuit of life. They’re struggling, they’re hurting and often they’re still belligerent.
But as each of us shared our particular story, the darkness that could have settled on us never appeared. While we certainly sympathized with the pain each person was experiencing, the impact of it didn’t weaken or sadden our souls. In fact, the conversations drove us to encourage each other. We shared Scripture, wise insight and prayed fervently for each other and for those whose sordid stories were brought to the table.
That’s what puzzles me.
I readily admit there are a LOT of things I just don’t understand. I could probably come up with a long list if I really thought about it. But one chief point in life that still baffles me is how people who aren’t following Jesus handle the incredibly difficult, painful and sometimes tragic things that happen in life. Why someone would choose to go through a battle with a serious medical condition, a divorce, a loss of a loved one, loss of a job, an abusive relationship without the presence and love and wisdom of God in their life – I just can’t fathom it. King Solomon points out that good and evil do happen to all of us:
“It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil,to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 9:2&3, ESV)
But how we handle the evil or the disruptive or the challenging things in our lives really does require our pursuit of Jesus. We’re just not designed to handle life on our own. Sure, some people who have no connection to God at all do seem to get thru life fine and often prosper. But, if you take a closer look at their life, they’re often at the least unhappy and at the most struggling constantly to stay on top of it all.
This is what Christ offers us instead, described in this prayer from the apostle Paul:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21, ESV)
Strength from the power of the Holy Spirit. Rooted in love. Knowing the breadth, length, height and depth of Christ’s love. He is able to do above and beyond our wildest imagination. The Power of God working within us. I don’t know about you, but when I look at that list of what a relationship with Jesus brings, I’m going to go with that approach to life instead of trying to figure it all out on my own.